The DHS Inspector General’s Office has reviewed Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s handling of the influx of migrants at the southern border during COVID-19 and found ICE spent $17 million on mostly unused hotel rooms last year.
The DHS internal watchdog determined ICE entered into a no-tender contract with a San Antonio-based nonprofit company called Endeavors, which aimed to house and care for migrants as they awaited processing.
The contract was not entered into via a normal bidding process. Under the contract, Endeavors was expected to secure six hotels that would be reserved and used to house the migrants, as well as care for them while they were staying in the hotels.
Separately, Endeavors entered into another contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for $500 million. Both contracts have been called into question because Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, a former ICE official who served as President Biden’s transitional adviser on homeland security issues, sits on the board of Endeavor.
The ICE contract gave migrant families a three-day stay at one of the six hotels secured by Endeavor while enrolled in the Alternatives to Detention program. ICE admitted its existing facilities would not be sufficient to house the large number of migrants coming across the southern border. Endeavors approached ICE unsolicited with a proposal for 1,329 beds across six hotels to supplement ICE’s housing capabilities.
Endeavor was also required to provide adequate COVID-19 testing and proper care while the migrants were housed in the hotels they provided. The review found the hotel spaces went largely unused between April and June 2021, and that proper testing for COVID was not provided.
The report concluded that ICE should not have entered into the contract without bidding it out to prospective contractors, and that in the future the agency must make efforts to properly meet proper housing standards provided by all its contractual partners in the future.
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